Braun to debut Friday; Gennett still out

Ryan Braun is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Friday, but Scooter Gennett’s return to active duty for the Brewers will have to wait a few more days.

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Braun is set to start in left field and take “a couple” of at-bats in the Brewers’ split-squad home game against the White Sox, manager Craig Counsell said. Braun’s delayed entry to the Cactus League was by design. He has long felt he needs only limited Spring Training at-bats to get his swing and his batting eye ready for Opening Day.

“We’re in good shape with him,” Counsell said. “He’ll be ready for the season and cheap jerseys. I’m confident we’ve given him enough time. More than enough time, really.”

Gennett, meanwhile, remains sidelined since March 2 with what the Brewers have characterized as a minor right wrist injury. The team is targeting Sunday at the Reds or Monday against the Mariners for Gennett’s return.

The delayed return to game action was not indicative of a setback, Counsell said.

The three others are all rehabbing from 2016 surgeries: Pitchers Adrian Houser (elbow) and Yhonathan Barrios (shoulder) and outfielder and 2016 first-round Draft pick Corey Ray (knee). Houser is on the 40-man roster, so the Brewers used the second of three Minor League options to send him down.

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Nottingham, No. 14 on the list of the top 30 Brewers prospects, was limited to three hitless Cactus League at-bats before discomfort in his upper right arm prompted a shutdown.

Brewers #4 Paul Molitor White Flexbase Authentic Collection Stitched MLB Jersey“I’m bummed of course, but what can you do besides try to get healthy?” he said.

Nottingham expects to resume throwing on Saturday.

Twenty-year-old Brewers infield prospect Isan Diaz is getting a taste of the World Baseball Classic. Ranked fifth on Brewers prospect list, Diaz was loaned to Team Puerto Rico for exhibition games in Scottsdale on Wednesday and Thursday.

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service’s 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park jersey, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage — including schedules, video, stats and gear.

Diaz will return to Brewers camp when Team Puerto Rico travels later this week to Jalisco for Pool D with Italy, Mexico and Venezuela.

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Brewers manager Craig Counsell — a 16-year big leaguer who played more than 375 games at second, third and shortstop each — has consistently placed premium on defensive versatility, which is why De Jesus has made a compelling case this spring to earn a 40-man roster spot. He has big league experience at all four infield positions and left field. Counsell said he likes De Jesus most at third base but would be comfortable playing him across the infield.

At the Major League level, De Jesus been hamstrung by his bat — a career .242/.303/.327 with 130 strikeouts and 41 walks in 495 at-bats — but this spring he’s hitting .405 with a 1.014 OPS, a home run, eight runs scored, six RBIs and six walks to go with three strikeouts in 42 at-bats, including a 6-for-13 stretch his past three games entering Saturday.

Also appealing, Counsell said, is the MLB experience De Jesus brings, which was a factor in signing him and utility infielder Eric Sogard, who also inked a Minor League deal in December. De Jesus jersey, 29, has played in 228 games in parts of four seasons with the Dodgers, Red Sox, and most recently, Reds, with whom he spent the last two seasons.

“I think that’s certainly the case. I think his experience, really him and Sogard, their experience has kind of shined through a little bit in this camp,” Counsell said. “I think as we’ve gotten going here, it sticks out in a camp that’s not very experienced. … You understand why they’ve been big leaguers.”

The Brewers remain mum on the bulk of their Opening Day roster plans, and one significant decision remains whether they want to carry seven or eight relievers, which would either open or eliminate an extra bench position.